Thursday, 12 September 2019 is R U OK? Day, a national day of action to empower people to connect with others and start conversations about mental health and wellbeing.
The law can be a combative, adversarial and exacting profession. Lawyers often work in challenging environments.
Time-based billing can be a contributory factor to a negative work environment; a recent Law Society report1 found the practice “places a considerable amount of pressure on lawyers”, with the “potential to disrupt work-life balance, de-prioritise pro bono work, strain the lawyer/client relationship and place negative pressure on the lawyer”2. Strong leadership and a willingness to adopt new ways of working are required, and the Law Society encourages the exploration of alternative billing models through its Continuing Professional Development programme.
Asking “Are you OK?” can be a simple first step in opening a deeper conversation. Having an empathetic person to confide in can be of significant benefit, whether a friend, trusted colleague or health professional. In the latter case, the Law Society maintains its LawCare WA health and wellbeing service for members, which includes an assistance programme and free counselling sessions.
It is incumbent upon employers to take the lead in looking out for the health and wellbeing of their staff. Actions speak louder than words in this regard. Practical measures employers can take include providing access to flexible working arrangements, fostering respect for work-life balance, encouraging staff to take lunch and other breaks during the day and promoting a positive, supportive workplace culture.
R U OK? Day is a timely reminder of the importance of health and wellbeing and an opportunity to reach out to colleagues, friends and family.
Greg McIntyre SC, President, The Law Society of Western Australia
1 The Future of the Legal Profession, The Law Society of Western Australia, December 2017.
2 Ibid, p.5.